FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a partial transcript of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s weekly press conference. The Razorbacks captured the Southeastern Conference Western Division title last Saturday with a win over Mississippi State. Arkansas closes the regular season this weekend in Little Rock against LSU.
(On the Mississippi State game)
“We told them all week that it was going to be a tough game. I put a lot of pressure on them all week. That is a hard, hard ballgame. We knew it would be. It was so good to get out of there with a win. There is nothing like it. It took everyone on that sideline.
“It seemed like we were a little slow in warm-up, a little sluggish and tired. It is to be expected. I really called on them. I called on our seniors all week long and all throughout the game. I just thought they showed a lot of heart. I thought our defense played extremely well. Especially early on, I wish we could’ve gotten some points for them. They won the field position (battle) for us. Reggie Fish did an excellent job of returning punts and getting north.
“Chris Houston was just outstanding. He has been outstanding all year, but to play the ball the way he played with his eyes, to make interceptions and to make a touchdown at a key time, he was just awesome. Randy Kelly hurried the quarterback and made a nice hit on that play.
“Offensively, they got after us. I thought their defensive line won the line of scrimmage early. But when we had to have it, we had 11 minutes of possession there at the end that I really thought was the difference in the game. I wish we would have scored there with the field goal, but that really made a big difference.
“With special teams, you have to give a lot of credit to James Shibest and Bobby Allen. I thought our special teams were probably at their best. Of course the blocked field goal we can’t have. We turned our shoulders inside and they got penetration. Jacob Skinner continues to put the ball deep and pin the opponent deep inside the five (yard line) and 10 (yard line). Kickoff return was once again excellent and well blocked and then McFadden hit it.
“It took all phases. That to me was a quality win. I don’t consider that one ugly, I consider it a very good win on the road with a lot of guys playing hurt. You’ve got guys that are sick, (Matt) Hewitt goes out and it scares you to death. Weston Dacus really stepped up with Desmond Sims and Sam Olajubutu. We can’t get anyone else hurt.”
(On whether Peyton Hillis will be available for LSU game)
“I hope so. We missed him. You can tell we missed him, especially on the counters as quick as these guys were. He can get around the traffic and get on the linebacker and clear the way for Felix (Jones) or Darren (McFadden). We really missed him catching the ball. Hopefully we can get him back this week.”
(On the difference with Reggie Fish returning punts against Mississippi State)
“The difference is that we have really been putting an emphasis on just go north. Don’t dance, don’t go sideways. You can make one move. After one move, you’ve got to go north. He didn’t let the ball hit. There were a couple of line drive punts and he catches it on the run. That saved some valuable yardage. I just think he did a great job of catching the football.”
(On winning 10 games and the SEC Western Division)
“It is a great feeling to win a championship on the western side and to win 10 games it is great. I just love it for our seniors. To see their faces and that happy, celebrating locker room, there is nothing like that. Our fans were super. They were there early and stayed late. It is just a great feeling.”
(On what you say to your team with SEC West already sewn up to get them ready to play this week)
“I’m going to tell them, I like what they have been saying. They have been listening extremely well. Our theme song has been real good. I don’t want to change. They know what is happening now. They are smart. I’m going to tell them let’s keep what we’ve been doing. Let’s play one game at a time. The next one is LSU and it is big.
“I want to get the (Golden) Boot back. I want to get that trophy back. That is something to play for in itself. We’ve been going along the whole way with one game at a time, one game at a time. This is the next game. It has been a several years since we have beaten LSU. They are probably the most physical and talented team in the SEC when you watch them on film. They are a big-time team.”
(On reaction of players after winning the division championship)
“Our players weren’t just going crazy. They have learned how to win in a class way. I think they are more relieved. I put a lot of pressure on them last week. I felt bad after Thursday night’s meeting a little bit, but I don’t know any other way we could get around it. That was a trap game all the way. You have the championship sitting in your lap. You have to take care of it. But once they got it, it was like “OK, we got it.” We accomplished it and now let’s move on to the next one.
“I felt like I put a lot on them. This is it. This is the game. This is the Super Bowl. They went out and got it done and showed a lot of character.”
(On the LSU game carrying less pressure than the Mississippi State game)
“Absolutely. They won the western side and that takes a lot of pressure off them. If you didn’t win Saturday, then there is a lot of difference. Now, let’s go have fun. Obviously, we want to win the game. There will be enough butterflies to go around in Little Rock. We know we are playing a good team. We know how talented they are.”
(On LSU’s defensive line)
“They are the best looking guys in uniform we have seen all year. They are just very, very good.”
(On LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell)
“He is 6-6, 256 and it is like I will shove you off to the left and I will shove you off to the right and he can throw it off his back foot about a 40 or 50-yard strike. I’m not exaggerating. I’m talking about on a line. I just got through watching it. It is unbelievable. He is unbelievable. He can do it on the move, falling down. He has great receivers. This guy is something.”